Help!! Baby Suddenly Refuses a Bottle: Actionable Steps to Solve the Problem

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You are not alone if your baby suddenly refuses a bottle. It is very common among babies to go on a bottle strike. Find out the reasons and solutions for sudden bottle refusal and get back to your routine.

I always thought that breastfeeding is the hardest job until I tried introducing a bottle to my baby. After a few days of teaching him how to take a bottle, he was finally drinking from his bottle happily.

As soon as I started thinking that life is back to normal, he suddenly started chewing on the bottle instead of drinking and then refusing the bottle.

A total shocker!!

My baby wouldn’t even open his mouth to take a bottle. I was stressed, anxious, and absolutely overwhelmed, learning that my baby suddenly refuses a bottle.

That 4-months old baby was in full-on denial mode for drinking milk from a bottle for no apparent reason.

Whether you are a first-time mom or a veteran mom, when your baby suddenly refuses to take a bottle is frustrating.

And to find out the solution to the problem, I started reading every other mom’s story and followed their tried and tested tips to finally figure out what could be the reason for bottle refusal.

In this article, I have listed actionable things that you should do first to find out why your baby suddenly refuses a bottle, plus tips and tricks to get the baby to take a bottle.

Related Read

Why Baby Squirms, Cries, or fuss while Bottle Feeding? (Bottle-feeding Problems and Solutions)

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Why Baby Suddenly Refuses to take a Bottle?

From health issues to preference to growth spurt to teething to change in a routine, there could be many reasons why your baby suddenly refuses a bottle.

Finding out the reasons for sudden bottle refusal is the first step to solving this problem. First, let’s look at the reasons why your baby is refusing to take a bottle.

Baby Prefers to Breastfeed

Help!! Baby Suddenly Refuses a Bottle-mom breastfeeding a baby

Bottle refusal is common among babies who are breastfed and bottle-fed. Most breastfed baby prefers breast over any bottle because breastfeeding is nourishment, comfort, and safety for them.

Even when babies get used to combination feeding, you will see sudden bottle refusal when they are sick or go through growth spurts when they need extra cuddles and hugs.

It is also common for some babies to refuse bottles when you are around them. Again, this is because they can sense your presence even if you are in another room.

There are many reasons why breastfed babies refuse a bottle. It is essential to understand why your baby is refusing the bottle so you can focus on correcting it.

Health Issue

If your baby is not feeding well, she may suddenly start refusing to take a bottle. Nasal congestion is the most common culprit for a bottle refusal or overall feeding refusal.

Nasal congestion makes it difficult for babies to breathe (through the mouth) and feed simultaneously. An easy solution for the nasal congestion problem is to bottle feed babies in a little upright position. Or what worked best for me was to put few drops of nasal saline in their nose before bottle feeding.

Nasal saline will clear their nose and allow them to breathe through the nose while bottle feeding. And you can use nasal saline before each feeding session. It is entirely safe to use in babies.

If your baby takes a bottle and starts screaming, check if he has gas. Also, check for an ear infection if you find your baby refusing the bottle constantly.

Teething can also pressure a baby’s gum while sucking a bottle and make it uncomfortable for them. If you think your baby is teething, give them teething neckless to chew on and relieve pressure on their gum.

And if you find that your baby is refusing a bottle for a couple of days, it is best to get advice from a pediatrician. They will identify any underline medical condition that your baby might be going through and suggest a course of action.

Change in Surrounding or Schedule

Change is even hard for a baby. If you have moved recently, started working, or baby started daycare, or new nanny, or transitioning them from crib to their own room, any change in baby’s life or surroundings can cause a baby to refuse a bottle.

In this case, you might want to make them comfortable and consistently try offering a bottle.

Starting Solids

If you have recently introduced solids to your baby, it could also cause a baby to refuse a bottle. Once your baby develops a taste for the food and starts eating more solids, they might refuse a bottle.

It is expected for babies to drop one or two bottles once they start solids, but milk is still the primary source of nutrition for the first year of life. So, if they refuse to take a bottle at every feeding session, you might need to adjust your feeding schedule.

You might want to try offering them a bottle one hour before lunch to avoid the bottle refusal caused by not being hungry after delicious puree lunch.

 Breastmilk Vs. Formula

If you have given breast milk in a bottle until now and recently switched to formula, it can cause a bottle refusal.

You might already know this, but breastmilk tastes way different from the formula, and babies take time to get used to formula if they drink breast milk.

So, if you switch from breast milk to formula in a bottle, start by mixing the 80:20 ratio of breastmilk and formula. Then, slowly, start increasing the quantity of formula. The baby will adapt to change in taste slowly.

Related Read:

Why My Baby makes a Clicking sound while Bottle feeding?

Change in a Taste of Breastmilk or Formula

Some babies try to suck on a bottle, but as soon as they find the change in the taste of the breastmilk or formula, they refuse to drink anymore.

This could happen if the temperature of the milk or formula is either too cold or too hot to their liking. Or sometimes thawed refrigerated breast milk has a chunk or clump of milk in it that you have missed mixing properly causing the nipple to clog making it difficult for the baby to suck milk.

If you are giving your baby frozen breastmilk, the process of freezing and defrosting can change the taste of your breast milk. Also, when the storage temperature is not correct, or it’s been sitting outside for a long time for defrosting, it could go bad.

So, it is always a good idea to streamline the process of freezing and defrosting within the household if multiple people are involved in defrosting and feeding your baby.

The taste of the breastmilk or formula can also change if you are giving your baby reheated leftovers from the last feeding session (I know how precious your breastmilk is to dump the leftovers). So, make sure you smell or taste the breastmilk or formula before offering it to your baby.

To find out whether you can give your baby reheated breastmilk, check this article.

Another possible reason for bottle refusal could be the slow flow nipple. Your baby may have been with slow flow nipple, but as they get older, they may get frustrated with slow flow and, hence refusing the bottle.

If you put in some effort to find out the exact reason for your baby’s refusal to take a bottle, you can focus your effort on solving the exact problem.

Sometimes it is hard to know the cause of refusal. It could be a combination of any or all of these factors causing bottle refusal. In this case, you will have to try everything until your baby starts accepting the bottle.

Now, Let’s talk about what you need to do if your baby suddenly refuses a bottle.

8 Actionable Tips to Get your Baby to Take a bottle after Sudden Bottle Refusal

It is stressful and overwhelming when your baby won’t accept a bottle and only wants to breastfeed. Don’t lose your hope, mama !! I got you covered. If you follow these tips consistently, you will make a transition from breast to bottle within a couple of days.

It is stressful and overwhelming when your baby suddenly refuses a bottle. Don’t lose your hope, mama!! Here are 11 actionable tips to get your baby back to bottle feeding in no time.

Let Dad or Someone else Feed the baby

This specifically applies to those who are combination feeding (breastfeeding and bottle feeding) their babies. For example, a baby often rejects a bottle from mama; as boobs being one inch away, why would you accept a bottle.

Babies are more likely to accept a bottle from a dad. So this is a great opportunity for your partner to bond with the baby over a bottle duty.

Also, when your partner is feeding the bottle, mama needs to go far from the baby (go to the upper level of your house), so your baby won’t sense your presence around them. If your baby hears, sees, or smells you, it can sabotage anyone’s attempts to offer a bottle to a baby.

Offer a Bottle One hour before offering Solid

If you suspect that your baby is refusing a bottle because they are eating solids, try offering a bottle one hour before lunch and dinner time.

A baby is expected to drop one or two bottles after solid introduction, but breastmilk or formula is still a primary source of nutrition for the first year of life. SO, make sure they are getting enough breastmilk or formula recommended by their pediatrician.

Try Different Position or Place

Help!! Baby Suddenly Refuses a Bottle -Baby-drinking-milk-from-a-Philip-Avent-bottle

If your partner or someone else is offering the bottle to your baby, ask them to hold the baby the exact same way as you did when you breastfed your baby. Some babies do really well in this position.

If this does not work, try different positions like face the baby outward away from the bottle giver, or give a bottle to your baby in a car seat while facing her.

Sometimes changing the location of feeding the baby in the house -from the bedroom to living room to nursery- may work.

If you think your baby is too distracted while feeding and refusing it because of the surrounding, try bottle feeding your baby in a dark, quiet place.

Temperature of the Milk

If the temperature of the breastmilk or formula in a bottle is different than they are used to, they will refuse the bottle. So you may need to figure out the temperature of the milk that your baby won’t reject.

To help make this process easy, a bottle warmer may come in handy. With different options for temperature settings, you will quickly figure out your baby’s liking, and you can offer them consistent temperature milk every feeding session.

As mentioned above, check the taste of the defrosted breastmilk before offering it to your baby. Also, make sure that you are washing bottles carefully as soap residue (If a bottle is not cleaned properly) can change the taste of the breastmilk or formula.

Try Breast-like Bottle

If you have recently introduced a bottle to your breastfed baby, they might take it right away but reject the bottle after a few days. In this case, a bottle might be a problem.

First, check the nipple of the bottle for any tears. A baby may have chewed the nipple and changed the flow of the nipple. Or the baby may not like how the bottle feels in their hand if they are holding the bottle by themselves.

If you find something wrong with a bottle, try changing bottles designed for breastfed babies even when they were okay with another bottle initially.

And once you change the bottle, stick with that bottle for at least a week, even when they keep rejecting it. It takes a couple of days for a baby to get used to the bottle. Changing bottles frequently will confuse the baby even more.

Change the Nipple

You may have started with a slow flow nipple when you first introduced the bottle to your baby. But as baby grows older, they might get frustrated with a slow flow of milk. Try changing the nipple to medium flow nipple and then fast flow nipple.

Do not directly introduce fast flow nipple, as it might lead to choking, gaging, or spit-up.  

Distract your Baby

During feeding time, take your baby out for a walk. Wear your baby in a sling. Or front-facing carrier or take a stroller. While they are distracted looking outside, slide the bottle into their mouth.

If you have a baby in a stroller, you need someone to push the stroller while you offer the bottle to your baby.  You want to choose a place for a walk that is not overcrowded.

Try Consistently

Getting a baby to take a bottle again can be difficult and can bring lots of frustration. However, some babies may go back to taking a bottle in no time once you figure out the reason for bottle refusal and make the changes accordingly.

While some babies may require trying different things before they go back to taking the bottle again.

So, the key to getting the baby to take a bottle again after sudden refusal requires consistent trying and lots of patience.

Until your baby goes back to their regular bottle-feeding schedule, ensure they are fed with alternative feeding methods.

Baby Suddenly Refuses a Bottle: Conclusion

You are not alone if your baby is suddenly refusing a bottle. Just like a growth spurt, sleep regression, and teething, bottle refusal is another parenting challenge you will face during the first year of their life.

When babies suddenly refuse a bottle, try to find out the reason for refusal first. Once you find out the reason, it will be easy for you to change things if necessary.

I hope one of the above tips or a combination of tips will help you get your baby to take a bottle again.  With consistency and little patience, your baby will eventually give in and take a bottle again.

Over to you, do let me know in a comment below what has worked for you.

Importantly, if you have any important/magic tips, PLEASE share them below so people can read them in the comment section. You never know who you would be helping by doing so!!

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